U.Va. President Jim Ryan to prioritize community engagement, strategic planning

Ryan outlined his priorities in an interview with The Cavalier Daily earlier this month

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University President Jim Ryan outlined his priorities for the University in an interview with The Cavalier Daily on Sept. 11. 

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

In his first interview with The Cavalier Daily since taking office last month, University President Jim Ryan outlined his priorities for the academic year, emphasizing his plans to focus on building a strong culture of interdisciplinary learning and community engagement while looking towards the future of the University.

Ryan said he plans to prioritize three broad categories: planning and execution for the University’s future, leadership and governance, and culture. 

One priority under the culture category for Ryan is betterment of University-community relations. Ryan said he believes the relationship between community members and the University could be stronger, including employees of the University. 

“It seems to be much better to start with a conversation and have a sense from community members about this is what is most important to us,” Ryan said. “And then last but not least, I hope this year to engender a sense of trust in the administration and a sense of optimism in the University going forward. And I think you do that in ways big and small, and I think the first way you do that is you demonstrate some level of understanding and competence, but I also think it’s about engagement and being visible and listening.”

The University’s relationship with the community has been strained over the past year, particularly after the white supremacist rallies of August 2017 — where some activists and community members have said the University failed to protect them and provide an appropriate response. 

Ryan said he also aims to develop a clear vision for the University so that it can come up with a plan of action. In order to converse with the community, Ryan said his team set up a website called “Ours to Shape.” The online platform is a method of gathering input from the University and greater Charlottesville community on their vision for the University.

“Ours to Shape” focuses on three core themes Ryan sees at the University — community, discovery and service.

He added that there are opportunities for collaborative service across the University.

“One thing that I’ve been looking into [is] … around the idea of public service for students,” Ryan said. “So there are an awful lot of public service opportunities across Grounds — in the College, in some of the professional schools — but they’re not, right now, all knit together and I don’t know whether it’s possible to have some kind of pan-University public service program, but that’s what I have in mind when I think about how do we continue to essentially build bridges across the University.”

Ryan also hopes to expand the University Health System and its academic divisions into Northern Virginia. This May, the University School of Medicine announced a partnership with Inova Health System Foundation and George Mason University that would allow 72 third- and fourth-year medical students to complete their last two years at Inova

“[Director of Northern Virginia Operations] Greg Fairchild from the Darden School is leading a task force to basically explore possibilities of what we might do up there,” Ryan said. “It’s not clear that we will, and there’s some exciting opportunities, but there are also some real questions about what you might do up there and make sure that you’re not cannibalizing or competing with what you do down here in Charlottesville. But it’s an opportunity worth exploring.”

Ryan will also continue looking at previously discussed plans for the Emmet-Ivy Corridor “holistically.” The University Board of Visitors started the process of considering future redevelopment of the corridor — located at the “entrance” of the University — in 2015.  He recently convened a task force to present suggestions for building the Emmet-Ivy Corridor. 

Another major priority, Ryan said, is to accumulate funds for the capital campaign called “Honor of the Future,” which has an overall goal of $5 billion.

“In the quiet phase leading up to the public launch, which will be next October, so far we’ve raised about $1.8 billion,” Ryan said. “And the campaign, the public phase, will run six years.”

Over the coming year, Ryan said he will work to integrate new administrators and senior staff into the University. The University recently hired a new COO, J.J. Wagner Davis, a new provost, Liz Magill, police chief Tommye Sutton, associate vice president for safety and security Gloria Graham and general counsel Tim Heaphy.

“There are a number of new people in leadership positions, and part of what we need to do this year, and this will carry over into next year, is figure out how we’re all going to work together,” Ryan said.

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